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Period Ending August 16, 2013

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This weekly roundup of election news and notes is compiled for Thompson Coburn by the The Ellis Insight.

Senate

Arkansas: Two more polls were conducted this week testing newly announced Republican candidate Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) in opposition to Sen. Mark Pryor (D). The Polling Company, a GOP pollster surveying for a conservative news website (8/6-7; 600 AR registered voters), found Sen. Pryor to be leading Rep. Cotton by only two points, 45-43%. OnMessage, Inc., polling for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (7/29-30; 600 AR registered voters), also found a two-point spread, but in Mr. Cotton’s favor, 44-42%. Expect this race to be tight all the way through next year.

Montana: Following the trend begun by the most prominent Democrats in the state, former Rep. Pat Williams (D), who served nine terms ending with the election of 1996, said he will not run for retiring Sen. Max Baucus' (D) seat. At the age of 75, Mr. Williams says he plans to continue what he's been doing, "sitting on his porch and looking at Missoula." Mr. Williams' wife, Carol Williams who herself is a former Montana state Senator, also says she will not run. The same is true for daughter Whitney Williams, a former aide to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton.

New Jersey: Newark Mayor Cory Booker (D) easily claimed the Democratic primary election early this week and will almost assuredly replace the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D) in October. With a total turnout of less than 9% statewide in both party primaries, Mr. Booker captured 59% of the vote. In second place way back at 20% is Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6). Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12) was next with 17%, and state House Speaker Sheila Oliver only captured 4%. The special general election is scheduled for October 16th. Former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan scored a 79-21% victory in the Republican primary. He will be no match for Booker in the general election, however.

North Carolina: As they do every month, Public Policy Polling tested their home state North Carolina electorate. Their new survey (8/8-11; 600 NC registered voters) tests several people against Sen. Kay Hagan (D), but only two are either in the race or still a viable potential candidate. Against state House Speaker Thom Tillis, the most serious announced Republican candidate, Sen. Hagan leads 47-39%. Paired with state Senate President Phil Berger (R), the numbers return an identical 47-39% spread. Ms. Hagan's job approval is 42:41% positive to negative. In bad news for both Tillis and Berger, the polling respondents disapprove of the state legislature's performance by a 24:54% clip.

House

AR-4: Now that Rep. Tom Cotton (R) has decided to run for the Senate, two major Republicans have already jumped into the House race. As expected, Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, who had earlier announced his own Senate campaign, dropped down into the open House race as soon as Mr. Cotton made his political plans public. Also in the congressional race is state House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman. The post-redistricting 4th District is much more Republican, but the Democrats certainly have the ability to become competitive here.

ID-1: Sophomore Rep. Raul Labrador, who was considering launching a Republican primary challenge to Gov. Butch Otter, announced that he will seek re-election to the House. Gov. Otter, ending his second term in office next year, is eligible to run again but has yet to announce his plans.

LA-5: State Rep. Robert Johnson (D) entered the special election campaign to replace resigning Rep. Rodney Alexander (R). Already running as a Democrat is state Rep. Marcus Hunter and attorney Charles Kincade. Republicans Neil Riser, the early favorite and a sitting state Senator, and state Rep. Jay Marcus have also announced their candidacies. The field will be set August 21st. The jungle primary is scheduled for October 19th. If no candidate receives an absolute majority of the vote, the top two, regardless of political party affiliation, will then run-off on November 16th. Mr. Alexander is resigning to become the Director of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs as appointed by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R).

LA-6: Like what happened with West Virginia state Sen. Evan Jenkins who switched from Democrat to Republican and then announced a congressional campaign (WV-3, against Rep. Nick Rahall), Louisiana state Sen. Rick Ward has just followed suit. Mr. Ward, elected as a Democrat, announced he is now joining the Republican Party and will run for Congress in the open 6th District. Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) is vacating the Baton Rouge based district to run for the Senate.

MA-6: Harper Polling, surveying for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), tested the northeastern Massachusetts electorate and found vulnerable Rep. John Tierney (D), trailing 2012 GOP nominee Richard Tisei. The spread was 42-40% in the Republican's favor. The automated poll was conducted July 29-31 and tested 416 registered MA-6 voters. In 2012, Rep. Tierney defeated Mr. Tisei 46-45%.

MN-3: Several weeks ago it was reported that retired Minneapolis-St. Paul television anchorman Don Shelby was considering a challenge to Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen. This week Mr. Shelby officially declined to enter the race. He could have been a factor against Paulsen in a marginal Twin Cities district because the Shelby name identification is almost 100% because of his years becoming a local news reporting institution.

PA-12: University of North Carolina administrator Laura Fjeld says she will challenge veteran Rep. Howard Coble (R) next year. The 82-year old Mr. Coble, first elected in 1984, has not indicated whether he will seek a 16th term next year. The Greensboro anchored 6th District is a strong Republican seat, so Democratic prospects here are not particularly strong.

PA-12: Defeated Rep. Mark Critz (D), who lost his seat in 2012, has decided not to seek a re-match with freshman Rep. Keith Rothfus (R). Instead, Mr. Critz will run for Lt. Governor. In Pennsylvania, candidates run individually for Lt. Governor in the party primaries. Once nominated, the Governor and Lt. Governor nominees are joined on a ticket. At this point, Democratic chances of unseating unpopular Gov. Tom Corbett (R) appear high.

Governor

Connecticut: Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton (R) formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee this past week. In 2010, Mr. Boughton was Republican gubernatorial nominee Tom Foley's running mate. Foley lost the closest election in the country that year to now-Gov. Dan Malloy (D). Mr. Foley, a former US Ambassador, is planning to run again but has yet to announce. Already in the race is state Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R), the son of the late Rep. Stewart McKinney (R-CT-4). The race has competitive potential, because Gov. Malloy’s approval ratings are low.

Illinois: The man who succeeded President Obama in the Illinois state Senate, Kwame Raoul, is making moves to enter the Democratic gubernatorial primary now that Attorney General Lisa Madigan (D) will remain in her current position. Right now, Gov. Pat Quinn and former US Commerce Secretary and Obama chief of staff Bill Daley are in the primary race. Raoul would draw most of his support from Chicago and the African American community. If the vote splits relatively evenly between Quinn and Daley, as current polls now suggest, Raoul could become a significant factor in the race.

Kansas: State House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D) formed a gubernatorial campaign committee, the first step toward officially running for the statewide position. Mr. Davis, should he win the Democratic nomination, will face incumbent Sam Brownback (R) who is preparing for re-election despite lagging approval numbers. The state's robust Republican nature should carry Brownback to victory almost irrespective of other political climate factors.

Maine: Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME-2) made his bid for Governor official with an announcement tour. Previously, the Congressman had formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee. Michaud will challenge vulnerable Republican Gov. Paul LePage. Attorney Eliot Cutler, who placed a close second to LePage as an Independent, is also running again in 2014. The last poll taken here, a Democratic Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research mid-July survey, posted Michaud to a 40-31-26% lead over LePage and Cutler, respectively.

Nebraska: State Sen. Steve Lathrop (D) this week rather unexpectedly announced that he will not run for the open Governor's position next year. University of Nebraska Regent – a statewide elected position in Nebraska – Chuck Hassebrook and state Sen. Annette Dubas are both in the Democratic primary. State Sens. Charlie Janssen and Tom Carlson have entered the Republican gubernatorial primary. Gov. Dave Heineman (R) is ineligible to seek a third term in office. Republicans are favored to hold the state house.

South Carolina: Dispelling previous comments that she, herself, made about possibly not seeking a second term in office, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) officially announced her candidacy for re-election. She will almost assuredly again face state Sen. Vincent Shaheen (D), the man she beat only 51-47% in the Republican landslide year of 2010. The strong Republican nature of the state should make Gov. Haley the 2014 favorite, but this race has the potential of becoming highly competitive.